They used to be called Elseworlds. If they were good, your interest was kind-of pulled two ways. Seeing your favorite characters in scenarios breaking from the norm was the initial appeal but, if they were especially good, you wanted that break to become the norm. Maybe you’d actually prefer to see a whole series about a semi-retired Superman or a vampire Batman or a cowboy Flash. Now that many of these Elseworlds have been integrated into DC’s official multiverse, I figured it’d be fun to discuss which ones might be worthwhile settings for their own, ongoing series. We sort-of got to see this in 52 while it was running, but the featured worlds were still mostly what you'd call extended glimpses.
Since 52 is far too high a number for me to address all of them here, I’ve pruned out obvious choices like Earth 2 (Golden Age DC,) Earth 4 (Charlton Comics,) Earth 5 (Fawcett Comics,) and Earth 50 (Wildstorm.) as those are all based on company lines that already got a shake.
There are also a few worlds who came from mini-series I liked - - Earth 18 (JUSTICE RIDERS,) Earth 19 (GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT,) Earth 21 (NEW FRONTIER,) Earth 37 (THRILLKILLER,) Earth 40 (THE LIBERTY FILE) and Earth 43 (The Batman Vampire Stuff) - - but concluded that the original premises would get stretched too far too quickly in any ongoing. So which ones made my cut then? == TEASER ==EARTH 3
(CRIME SYNDICATE OF AMERIKA)
As far as I know, the short-lived JOKER and SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPERVILLAINS titles from the 70s were the only time villains ever actually headlined their own comics. An entire series inverting every moral virtue (and even plot structure) we’ve grown so accustomed to is certainly an intriguing prospect. Imagine a comic that promotes ruthlessness instead of selflessness and betrayal instead of team-work. That territory might be too uncomfortable for most people, even if it were released as a mature readers book. Though, the CSA has been popular ever since its modern re-introduction (they’re showing up in full force in JUSTICE LEAGUE, now) and there's no shortage of fun to be had introducing morality-swapped mirrors of every hero and villain.
This world’s home to the lesser-known Meta-Militia and Lord Havok & The Extremists, who are blatant analogs for the Avengers and their villains, respectively. Considering that they got a special recently during COUNTDOWN, it might seem excessive to do an entire series about coy parodies. However, turnabout is fair play, and if we can have several series about the Squadron Supreme (Marvel’s JLA riff) then I don’t see why you can’t do the same for these guys. Hell, if you want to get absurdly meta, it might be wonderfully demented to have them face their world’s equivalent of the Squadron Sinister.
This actually did get a monthly follow-up with that TANGENT: SUPERMAN’S REIGN maxi-series. Beyond the "names are the same but the characters are different" gimmick, this had a strong premise for a sci-fi world with the heroes actually altering history and begetting a delayed (and even heightened) counter-culture. Still, let's not disregard that there's plenty of fun to be had playing with the different connotations names can evoke. You know, like a cheerful, heroic Joker, a crypt-keeping Green Lantern or a group of Metal Men who're actually grizzled commandos. This world was just recently been ravaged by the CSA in the aforementioned JLA arc, so this might more than a little tricky to pull off, but when has death ever stopped anybody?
If you’ve read any of the compendiums Alex Ross has done about the landmark mini-series, you’ll know that there’s a true wealth of material to draw from. Out of all the worlds listed here, this might be the one that’s nearly as fleshed out as regular continuity, if only by virtue of the sheer density of ideas and characters that were present in the first series. While the stressed message of KINGDOM COME is that’s the end point of the superhero saga, there are still many, many stories you could do about the decades leading up to the cataclysm. We've kind-of been seeing some of this in GENERATION LOST, as well as the senior Supes’ appearances in JSA but, again there' s just some much here that you could probably get away with a whole imprint featuring solo OFFSPRING, NIGHTSTAR & MAGOG titles
ALL-STAR BATMAN & ROBIN THE BOY WONDER has been re-conceived as being part of a continuum that also includes THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and YEAR ONE. We’re already getting an ongoing set in this world with ALL-STAR (to be re-titled DARK KNIGHT: BOY WONDER) so this is the only case where my question has actually been answered. If it hadn't been, though, I don’t think this would be viable as a milieu that could be passed on to other creators. THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN featured plenty of future-twisted characters from the traditional staple, but anybody who's read these stories will agree that this is less of a cohesive universe than it’s Frank Miller’s wild, outrageous take on the DCU.
(IN DARKEST KNIGHT)
The world where Bruce Wayne's a Green Lantern might seem like it'd fit into the category I described above (where the premise is best left to a mini-series.) This is an exception, for a couple reasons. For one, judging by people’s responses to my piece about which GL has the best costume, many imaginations have been captured by the notion of Batman with a power ring. Also, with the added concepts of the War of Light, I can see a crazy story where all the villains get their own rings - - yellow for Scarecrow , orange for Catwoman, sapphire for Poison Ivy, red for Bane, etc. Finally, it’d be a hoot to see a whole world where all the heroes swap gimmicks. Like Oliver Queen linking to the speed force, Donna Troy getting adopted and becoming a Robin and, say, Arthur Curry finding a white dwarf belt in his civilian identity.
So there you have it. Do you maniacs agree with my picks? If you disagree, what worlds would better warrant their own series, in your opinion? Did I dismiss any too hastily? Make your voices heard in the talkback! Hit us with your own list. With 52 in total, it's not like there aren't plenty to choose from.